NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has said Newcastle United are still in a relegation battle despite climbing seven points clear of the Premier League’s dropzone.
A hard-fought 2-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion thanks to goals from Ryan Fraser and Fabian Schar gave Newcastle their fifth win in six games. Howe’s team are now unbeaten in eight games, their longest run without a loss in more than a decade.
However, the coach is refusing to get carried away with his side’s results, despite many fans looking up, rather than down.
“We are still in a relegation battle — and I think it is important that the players feel that. We can’t let up. We can’t stop. We have a really difficult run of games — four away games, which for any team in the Premier League is very difficult,” said Howe.
“Today was very important. The players in the dressing room are pleased but not over the top in how they are feeling. I think they know we are still in the midst of a very important spell.”
Newcastle have impressed with their counter-attacking, controlled displays, but they had to dig deep - and were arguably second best throughout - against the Seagulls.
Howe said: “It was a tough game. Full respect to Brighton and Graham Potter. The way they play, they are always going to be a tough opponent.
“When you see their away record, they’d only lost two games prior to today.
“We knew we weren’t going to have the ball for long spells in the game. It was going to be about how well we defended. With the two-goal lead, getting it so early, it was about how we did without the ball, especially when the game went 2-1.”
The transformation of Newcastle cannot be understated.
Having won one in 20, they’ve now won five in the following eight, with the FA Cup loss to League One Cambridge United in January the wake-up call Newcastle probably needed.
Reflecting on his team’s form, Howe said: “We have come from a long way back. We had a lot of work to do.
“I remember sitting here after the Watford game at home and realised we needed to win matches and how draws weren’t really good enough for us.
“The players have committed to everything. The shift they put in out of possession was huge. The spirit and the resolve needed is there.”